The Wellcome Trust is to join with the Cancer Research Campaign's technology company to form a firm to deal with patenting and intellectual property rights from academic research funded by both charities.
The company will act as an agent for Wellcome Trust, advising researchers funded by the trust on how to protect their discoveries. It will also develop new contracts with universities that ensure that discoveries are exploited.
"We are building on the leadership shown by the CRC with their technology transfer company," said trust director Bridget Ogilvie. "Unless we protect our intellectual property, things may be discovered which become 'orphan', and industry will not be interested in developing them further."
Dr Ogilvie said that the Government and charity commissioners are also pressing to increase protection of intellectual property rights as part of the wealth increasing mission of the research councils and other parts of Government.
The new firm may attempt to patent gene discoveries. Dr Ogilvie said: "Even those who take the view that it's probably wrong to patent human genes feel that they must get out a patent in order to protect themselves."